ANDERSON STREET CHATS WITH KING’S PARIS STROTHER
We were granted an opportunity to speak with the architect of the group’s signature sound, producer and songwriter Paris Strother. If you have been following us for while, you should already know that we have been big fans of the group since the release of their way-too-short EP back in 2011. Their official debut album which was FINALLY released this past winter did not disappoint one bit either and might be a shoe-in for our end of the year “Best of 2016″ list.
We talked to Paris about how the group fine crafts their signature sound, songs, “lewks,” and visuals. We also chatted about working with a few our faves like Corinne Bailey Rae, Eric Roberson and Bilal and of course their plans for the Philly show. Check out our convo below.
Anderson Street: You guys are known for producing the pettiest harmonies known to man. Can you tell us about the production process?
Paris: As far the harmonies go, we just do what feels natural and also try to be creative. We have fun playing with the textures of their voices because they have unique tones that blend together very well. We basically make a melting pot of all the difference influences we’ve grown up around. Ya know, obviously a lot of soul and r&b, but we also incorporate classical, jazz, and new age.
Anderson Street: What are some of the artists that inspire your music?
Paris: Bill Evans, he was a jazz pianist, even Miles Davis, you can hear a lot of classical in his jazz.
Anderson Street: So we know KING was integral in working on the Corrinne Bailey Rae’s newest album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers. How was that process?
Paris: She is just a wonderful musician. Everything about her is music. It’s not just ‘Oh she is a great singer’ or ‘great guitarist’. She is a great music person. It is really inspiring to be around someone who effortlessly creates beautiful sounds and it is an honor to work with her.
Anderson Street: You have also worked with other Philadelphia faves. Especially one, that has become a best friend to The Anderson Street Project – Eric Roberson. What was it like working with him?
Paris: It was incredible. He is such a wonderful guy. He is actually one of the first people to hear the record. To have his support and to have him reach out and ask us to contribute to his album…that was everything. So that song ‘Just Imagine’, actually came about after crossing paths in Minneapolis. Growing up with his song writing was just so special. All the music he has written for Music Soulchild, for me in particular, was just so special. Honestly, we made the EP and didn’t even put it on line yet. And one day I was out for lunch and I handed Eric a CD and asked if he could give it a listen. He offered to give me $20 for but I told him no thank you but he insisted. He eventually told me that our 3 song EP was worth it, ha.
Anderson Street: We also can’t talk about Philadelphia music and not talk about Bilal as well.
Paris: OMG. That is the homie. I love him. From the bottom of my heart, he is wonderful. He is such a gift to our generation. That is a person who has not bounds artistically. He is everywhere; he is free and unafraid to authentically express himself at all times. So that album, 1st Born Second, it was everything. In college, our first big moment where we actually scored and played in front of people, we played ‘When Will You Call’. So to become his friend, make music with him, produce for him and with him was everything!
Anderson Street: It took you guys a good four to five years to put out the album. Can you talk about that time period and how you spent those years building this masterpiece?
Paris: Thank you. We wanted to leave no stone unturned. I know I didn’t want to complete record wishing I did something different on a song. I was not trying to make “Album of the Week”. This is magnum opus.
There was a learning curve. Ya know, when people put out a record there is usually 80-100 people on staff (chuckles). It was just three of us. So there was that. There was also a lot of time spent trying to refine it. A lot of songs were added over the years. “Carry On” was one of the last songs to go on, and it wouldn’t be the album without it. So I don’t really question the cosmos. I was just given instructions and couldn’t call when it would be done, I just knew when it was done.
Anderson Street: How did you block out the critical acclaim to not put out something right away?
Paris: Umm…I blocked it out by knowing that I am working on it. People would tweet us on Twitter all the time. The pressure was definitely on. I was just hoping everyone would be patient enough to hear when this vision comes to life.
Anderson Street: One of our Anderson Street Neighbors asked me to ask you about your (fashion) style. Can you tell us about your fashion inspirations?
Paris: “We just try to authentically be ourselves in clothes. The Japanese robe that you saw (on the Conan show with Corinne) – it is something that is intricately made. It feels like if our music had a look, that is what it would look like.”
Anderson Street: Another thing you guys put a lot of work into is your visuals. How do you choose your visuals for the music videos?
Paris: For this album, we were envisioning Fantasia from Disney. We are lovers of colorful art. We want to convey a limitless feeling with our music. We were able to connect with artists who could express that surrealism, mind warping, psychedelics, ya know getting lost in the videos.
Anderson Street: “Red Eye” is one of my favorite songs on the album. You mentioned that it is about travelling. Can elaborate on that?
Paris: Yes, it is about travel in the most basic sense. But we just try to make revolutionary music. It was about transporting. The way you think about all these countries. We want our listeners to feel like there isn’t all of this otherness .Ya know, people can feel transported and would actually want to see Tokyo.
Anderson Street: Our site is geared toward Philadelphians. We want to know what do you love about performing in our city and if you have any special plans?
Paris: That was my favorite city to perform. We did a tour with Laura Mvula a couple of years ago and I just remember Philly being so warm and welcoming.
Anderson Street: The song “The Greatest” is about Muhammad Ali. Can you talk about what he meant to you?
Paris: He was someone who was unapologetically himself. He was afraid to call out anything unjust. He put himself on the line for his people. So we wanted to make an anthem for young people of color. Unafraid to be brilliant, wanting to instill those values on the young generation.
And ladies, we thank you for being unapologetically yourselves too!